Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding is a highly recommended and emotional literary fiction about addiction and rehabilitation.
Sonya lives for her son Tommy, rescue dog Herbie, and drinking. Her
previous career as a London
stage actress is over, as is her relationship with Tommy's father,
but she knows her love is all Tommy needs. What she doesn't recognize
is her love of alcohol is resulting in blackouts, and she is grossly
neglecting her son. After a neighbor informs him about her neglect and a
terrifying incident, her father, whom she hasn't seen in years, comes
to her home with the choice of going to rehab or risk losing Tommy
forever. Sonya enters a 12 week program and Tommy is put into care. Now
she faces finishing rehab and staying sober, so she get her son back.
This is a difficult novel to read, especially at the beginning
because Sonya is a mess and completely unlikable, unpredictable, and
obviously neglecting Tommy. Even though you know she loves him and is
trying to make life fun and magical for Tommy, it is also clear that
with her drinking and blackouts, he would be better off with someone who
could take care of him. Her thoughts are manic, scattered, and
disorganized; she doesn't remember when or if she fed Tommy and Herbie.
She relies on Herbie to watch Tommy. It is horrifying. Once Sonya enters
rehab and starts detox you hope she sticks with the program for Tommy's sake.
The characters are all complex and flawed, many of them deeply
flawed. The narrative is heartbreaking throughout. This is one of those
novels that it might be best to prepare yourself for reading because it
is so emotionally disturbing and tragic. Even when it seems that there
may be hope, it is clear that Sonya will always be struggling and,
perhaps, is not a good judge of character. You will hope there is
redemption in the end but it is clear that nothing is guaranteed and her
current choices might be due to deeper issues from her past. The ending
is sudden and resolves nothing. 3.5 rounded up
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.